Axl Seril reflects on his journey towards enlistment in the Marine Corps


Ella Shen

Axl Seril is set to ship out for boot camp on June 12.

Spring break was stressful for Axl Seril. While other seniors toured the nation, visiting colleges and sightseeing, Seril was waking up at 4 a.m. for his nightly watch, going to bed at 1 a.m. the next day. He didn’t get into any colleges. In fact, he didn’t even apply to one. 

While his peers toiled away at college applications and scholarship essays in November, he was signing papers at Camp Parks, the military base in Dublin, California, enlisting him in the U.S. Marine Corps. Now, he’s set to ship out for bootcamp in early June 2023.

To most of his peers, he’s just a regular high school senior. Yet each week, he heads down to Camp Parks for weekly military-style training and workouts. Each year, he attends a handful of week-long bootcamps, training him in field-like situations for military combat, operations and life.

“It’s polarizing, because I did something completely different. You rarely ever hear about it here,” Seril said.

The decision to go to college is an obvious one for most Dougherty students. 44% of Contra Costa County residents hold a Bachelor’s degree, head and shoulders above the state average of 35%. A recent poll found an estimated 95% of 2023 seniors at Dougherty applied to at least one UC. So the decision to take an alternative route, be it a gap year, community college or even the military is a rarity.

“I think especially in sophomore year when people first heard that [I’m going into the military] they’re like, ‘What are you doing? You’re throwing away your education,’” Seril remarked. “When I first told my mom in sixth grade [that I planned on enlisting], she just started crying in the kitchen so bad.”

Seril’s decision to enter the Marines is just as arduous and rigorous as any college-bound high school senior.

It’s certainly expected that teenagers of all age groups would be willing to speak out against authority, but the military always feels different insofar as “rebellion.” To willingly put one’s life on the line, be met with the opportunity of death at every doorstep is not just a rebellion, it’s an act of courage. There is a dramatism, a scale of severity unique to military life, that Seril was aware of.

“Even if something were to happen, I just think like, someone’s got to do it. I’d be completely satisfied with my life if I were able to help out or save people, whatever scenario it is. that sacrifice is way more worth it to me than having to dwell on if I hadn’t.” Seril said.

Like most seniors, Seril’s career goals started young. He became fascinated by history books and the Filipinos who fought for the U.S. in World War II, only his passion didn’t manifest in a 9-5 office job, but in an idolization of service and the armed forces. He took exams and tests; not AP exams or SATs, but the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB). He talked with counselors and took interviews, only they didn’t wear suits or sweaters, they wore military uniforms and combat boots.

“I’ve connected with a lot of veterans who’ve been through multiple careers, some of them in the Marine Corps, others in the Coast Guard, some active duty. I’ve talked to a lot of people in the Reserves too and even just outside opinions of other civilians.” Seril said.

His enlistment will be four years, the same pace as an undergraduate degree; he’ll be taking classes at elite institutions for job training and he’ll have a career at the end of it. Seril’s decision to enter the Marines is just as arduous and rigorous as any college-bound high school senior. The difference comes from its unusualness for our area. “The Few, The Proud,” the Marine Corps champions, a statement that rings truer at Dougherty Valley.

When I was younger, my dad would always tell me that ‘If you really want something, you gotta earn it.’ He really wanted me to work for everything.

“A lot of people here prioritize college. Our families move here so that their kids can get an education. It makes you look away from the military because that pushes college away,” Seril noted. “A lot of people here have a poor idea of the military. They think they’re people who dropped out of high school.”

Seril, meanwhile, has a 3.81 GPA, and he scored in the 90th percentile of the ASVAB. He maintains a strong work ethic outside of the military too, participating actively in his local church.

“A lot of my dedication comes from my dad. When I was younger, my dad would always tell me that ‘If you really want something, you gotta earn it.’ He really wanted me to work for everything,” Seril said. “Having to earn and really put a lot of work into earning things is something I really like.”

In his pursuit of his military career, Seril has enrolled in a number of military-sponsored organizations geared towards youths interested in different branches of the military. For the last two years, he’s been a part of the Sea Cadets, the Navy-sponsored organization where adolescents engage in boot camp-like training and skill-development programs.

“One of the biggest things is just having that discipline instilled right away, you know? Having to wake up early at 5:30 in the morning, getting dressed in two minutes and having to run out there, you need discipline,” Seril said. “In San Luis Obispo, it was 30 degrees, pouring rain, and there were really high winds. Learning to embrace that suffering taught me that this is going to help me out.”

These trainings happen frequently for Seril as part of the Sea Cadets, attending workouts at Camp Parks weekly. During school breaks, Seril ships out to week-long military immersion camps. Over spring break, Seril participated in a simulated invasion of Ukraine, and how the U.S. military might respond, including field operations, setting up camp and doing night watches.

“They way that the military [disciplines you] is just very specific because it’s instilled in you right away. What you do can affect someone’s life. It’s like a life or death scenario right off the bat,” Seril noted. “You can discipline yourself outside of the military to wake up and make breakfast at this time so that you don’t have to worry about rushing or having to just buy breakfast. But in the military, if you don’t get this done at a certain time, you may be costing hundreds of lives.”

To Seril, this decision is a must not only for the sake of helping others, but for himself. In the military, he sees the opportunity for himself to succeed as a person, not just career wise, but as a human being.“In the military, you can empathize with other people and see what it’s like to just have nothing. To be put through challenges and obstacles where my life’s on the line and other people’s lives are on the line,” Seril said. “Even in the worst scenario, being able to put yourself  through it and get out of it is a really rewarding experience. I can say to myself, ‘Hey, I can do that. What can I not do?’”